FIRST-PERSON: Learning when it's OK to say no

John WeaverThe first time I ever ate shark meat was at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico in 1991. Specialist Salters, a soldier in my Army unit, took Pamela and me to a little restaurant in Juarez as a wedding present to us.

In attempting to show off in front of my new bride and demonstrate that I ate "exotic" stuff all the time, I stuck a huge piece of shark meat in my mouth. I had never had this before and knew nothing about the texture.

Let's just say, it was very "chewy" and I wound up eating on that piece of meat for quite a long time. Because I was too proud or embarrassed to spit the piece of shark meat out, I just kept chewing on it while the rest of my food got cold and my wife and Specialist Salters had finished about half of their meals.

Many times in life, we bite off more than we can chew. Like me, we may be too proud or embarrassed to admit that we overcommitted ourselves and will just continue to chew and chew and chew.

Some of us overcommit because we are unable to say "no." Others do so because they feel that "the job won't get done." And others overcommit because they are workaholics and don't realize they are "only one person." As Christ followers, there are many good things, including spiritual activities, which constantly compete for our attention. It can be challenging to know when to say "no."

There are many different plans or techniques that are useful in helping balance our "yes" and "no" commitments. As followers of Christ, we should always begin by committing or surrendering all that we do to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3; Luke 9:23). After that, we can prioritize things by asking ourselves some questions, for instance:

• How does this potential opportunity align with God's purpose and calling for my life?

• Looking at my current schedule, can I manage this new opportunity and do it well? Will I need to stop doing another commitment in order to make room for this new opportunity? If so, what will that be?

• What concerns do I have? What will it cost me if I say "yes"? Or what will it cost me if I say "no"?

• Is this something that only I can do or could it be delegated? Is this someone else's responsibility or problem?

Overcommitting is not healthy for our physical, mental or spiritual well-being. Learning when to say "yes" or "no" will be something we do all our lives.

I love the story in Exodus 18:13-26 when Jethro came to his son-in-law Moses and gave him some corrective advice when he saw Moses overdoing himself by trying to judge every single disagreement the people of Israel had with each other.

I laugh almost every time I read verse 18: "You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone."

It's good counsel: Don't overcommit yourself. It's not good for you—or anyone else.

John Weaver is a Christian life coach and pastor of Morse Mill Baptist Church in Dittmer, Mo. 

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